JAN 12 — It was my first day ever out of the country (Singapore does not count, does it?) and I found myself in the lift with a lady. Someone else entered as the modest Tasmanian hotel’s lift worked its way down. The new entrant asked this lady if she was going to chair the meeting. From my perusing of the tournament programme book earlier, I knew he was referring to the Australasian Inter-varsity Debating Association’s pre-council meeting.
In my mind, it seemed that she must be some senior university staff or lecturer. An important meeting deciding important things involving universities across Asia Pacific must be left to those older and with qualifications and experience.
That’s how novice debaters from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) in their first day in long johns in the arse end of Australia should be thinking, or at least the old me. I was wrong.
She was a student. So were all the university representatives, with the exception of a few Asian institutions.
My paradigm shifted that afternoon.
Therefore three years later in Manila, it was ridiculous not surprising when the ASEAN friendship boat arrived for a visit. As one of the few foreign students or staff from the region, I was invited to come and meet the Malaysian delegation at a reception in the garden. The various countries assigned their youth ambassadors to the Asia-wide tour. The Indonesians, Vietnamese, Thais, Singaporeans and the rest were in their early twenties. A twenty five year old would feel out of place except in the Malaysian corner. There standing with their uniform pot-bellies and moustaches were the Malaysian “youth”. Talking to them, I gathered they were generally married and with children of their own already, but that’s Malaysia for you.
Which is why when my party PKR decided to reduce the age-limit for the youth, I was enthusiastic. Those actually young should be leading a section designed for the young. It did not amuse me when some of the youth leaders asking for the age-cap to be raised. They said there were no quality young leaders. Only those pretending to be young are qualified, they’d argue.
For them, youth is too important to be left to those who actually are young.
Which is a bit linked to what I wrote in The Malaysian Insider today.